Founded around 3,100 BC during the Old Kingdom, Memphis is the legendary city of Menes, the King who united Upper and Lower Egypt. According to tradition, he first created dikes to protect the area from Nile floods and then started building. Much of what we know of Memphis comes from its necropolis, texts and papyrus from other parts of Egypt, and Herodotus, who visited the city. Early on, Memphis was probably a fortress from which Menes controlled the land and water routes between Upper Egypt and the Delta. Later, this great city became the administrative and religious center of Egypt, was home to a cosmopolitan community, and most likely was one of the largest and most important cities in the ancient world.
Across the Great Court of the Pyramid Complex of Zoser in Sakkara stands the Step Pyramid, the oldest known of Egypt’s 107 pyramids. Sakkara was built by Imhotep, one of the world’s most famous historical figures. This architect of the world’s first freestanding stone structure is often also recognized as the world's first doctor, as well as a priest, sage, poet, and astrologer. Although the original structure was a burial chamber 28 meters underground, Imhotep enlarged it several times to eventually reach a six tiered rectangle 60 meters high. Sakkara seems to have been the first area where limestone was employed, not only for the outer casing of the pyramid but also to cover interior walls.
Savor lunch at Khan El Khalili restaurant, named after the famous Cairo market. Next visit the Great Pyramids of Giza, the only present-day survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The pyramids were built about 4500 years ago as giant tombs for the mummies of the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, who were a father, son and grandson(Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus are the Greek forms of their names). In the ancient Egyptian religion, the sides of the pyramids were likened to sun rays on which the Pharaoh ascended to heaven. The pyramids are truly monumental in scale, with the largest, Khufu's, made of over 2 million blocks. The pyramids were not built by slaves but by Egyptian peasants who paid their taxes to the Pharaoh through this labor, and were fed, clothed and housed by him.
Nearby sits the enigmatic Sphinx with the body of a lion and the face of a man wearing a royal head cloth, which workers may have based on King Khafre to guard his enormous funerary monument. About a thousand years after the Sphinx was built, it was covered in sand until a young prince had a dream in which the Sphinx told him that if he cleared the sand away, he would become Pharaoh. This story is told on the "Dream Stela" that was placed between the Sphinx's paws by King Tuthmose IV.
Overnight at the Fairmont Nile City.
In Luxor, check-in at noon on the 5-star deluxe Nile cruise boat, the "Sanctuary Nile Adventurer", moored in a private dock in Luxor. Be welcomed by the reception staff, who offer chilled fruit juice and assist with check-in.
Visit the Temple of Karnak, built over more than a thousand years by generations of Pharaohs. The Great Hypostyle Hall is an incredible forest of giant pillars, covering an area larger than the whole of Notre Dame Cathedral. Next join the Egyptologist on a tour of the strikingly graceful Temple of Luxor, dedicated to the god Amun.
Tonight be greeted by the Boat Manager, who introduces the boat staff and reviews on-board facilities and the cruise program for the next few days. Complimentary Egyptian wine and local beer are served.
Next explore Hatshepsut Temple. Rising out of the desert plain in a series of terraces, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (Ancient Egypt's only female Pharaoh) merges with the sheer limestone cliffs that surround it, as if nature herself had built this extraordinary monument. On the way back to the river Nile, pass by the famed Colossi of Memnon, known in Ancient Greek times for their haunting voices at dawn.
While cruising to Esna, enjoy afternoon tea and lunch on board. Tonight’s dinner is an “Egyptian Night” costume party for all guests, with a chance to dress up in traditional Egyptian “galabeyyas”. Dinner is a lavish buffet of Egyptian specialties, followed by oriental music and dancing for everyone.
Cruise to Edfu to explore the largest and most completely preserved Pharaonic – albeit Greek-built – temple in Egypt, the extraordinary Temple of Horus at Edfu.
En route to Kom Ombo, participate in an Egyptian cooking lesson prior to dinner.
Next cruise to Aswan and take a short motorboat ride to visit the romantic and majestic Philae Temple on the Island of Agilka. Proceed to the Granite Quarries, which supplied the ancient Egyptians with most of the hard stone used in pyramids and temples, and still hold a huge unfinished obelisk. In the afternoon (weather permitting) take a ride on a felucca, a typical Egyptian sail boat, around Elephantine Island, Lord Kitchener’s Botanical Gardens, and the Agha Khan Mausoleum (life jackets are provided).
Tonight’s farewell dinner is a gala dinner (jacket required), with white-gloved waiters serving gourmet cuisine.
An optional Abu Simbel Excursion by flight is offered. Abu Simbel Temples, built by the Great Ramses II, Egypt’s longest ruling pharaoh, are some of the most recognizable images in the country. The Great Temple of Ra-Harakhte, fronted by the four colossal statues of Ramses II, and the Temple of Hathor, dedicated to Ramses’ favorite wife Queen Nefertari, were moved to their current location when the creation of Lake Nasser threatened their existence.
Board a return flight to Cairo via Aswan. Upon arrival at the Cairo airport, meet with the Tour Coordinator. Overnight at the Fairmont Nile City.
Enjoy lunch at Al Azhar Park. Situated in the heart of Islamic Cairo, this beautiful park was created for the citizens of Cairo by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
Next visit the Citadel, perched high on limestone hills above Cairo. The Citadel is a medieval fortress built by Salah El Din (Saladin) in 1176 to protect the city from Crusaders. The Citadel has always had a military use, and was expanded over the centuries by Egypt's rulers who often resided there. Today, the Citadel complex has mosques and museums, including the National Military Museum.
Proceed to the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, completed in 1363. With its grand, soaring architecture and rich decoration, the Mosque is one of the finest in Egypt. In recesses around its open courtyard, each of the four schools of Sunni Islam was taught to students, and in its mausoleum, Sultan Hassan's sons are buried.
Complete the tour with a visit to the fascinating Khan El-Khalili Bazaar, reputed to be the largest bazaar in the Middle East. Originally founded as a watering stop for caravanserai in the 14th century, the bazaar has now grown to vast proportions. As one wanders through the labyrinth of narrow streets, find workshops and stalls selling all manner of things from woodwork, glassware and leather goods to perfumes, fabrics and Pharaonic curiosities.
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